SEVERE WX : Heat Advisory View Alerts

42-year-old Zamboni driver wins NHL game as emergency goalie

Kidney transplant survivor called out of stands after two injuries.

Posted: Feb 23, 2020 11:00 AM

TORONTO (AP) — David Ayres was sitting in the stands with his wife at Scotiabank Arena when Carolina Hurricanes goalie James Reimer went down with an injury.

The on-call emergency netminder in Toronto, Ayers left his seat and got half-dressed into his gear on the off-chance something might happen to Carolina's second option, Petr Mrazek.

Midway through the second period, Ayres noticed his cellphone started to blow up. What he didn't realize was that Mrazek had been hurt in a scary collision with Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford and was down on the ice.

Next thing the 42-year-old Zamboni driver knew, he was walking down the tunnel and into the spotlight.

And not long after, he had an improbable first NHL win. He is the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut.

Ayres allowed goals on the first two shots he faced before settling down and stopping the next eight in a suffocating defensive performance by his new teammates as Carolina picked up a stunning 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

"I had a couple of text messages that told me to get in there," Ayres said in front a throng of reporters. "I hadn't seen the footage (of Mrazek's injury). I was in the media room by myself and a guy came in and said, 'Get going. Get ready.'

"It was wild, it was fun," said Ayres, who gets paid $500 and gets to keep his jersey.

Ayres, who had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and wasn't sure if he would ever play hockey again, has been a practice goalie with the Leafs and the club's American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, for the last eight years.

The native of nearby Whitby, Ontario, faces shots from professional players on an almost-daily basis during the season but never thought he'd be called into service in an NHL game.

"These guys were awesome," Ayres said. "They said to me, 'Have fun with it, don't worry about how many goals go in, this is your moment, have fun with it.'"

He did more than that, and was greeted with raucous cheers from the Hurricanes in their locker room after finishing a post-game TV interview.

"I had no idea I was going to get a shower before I got in the shower," Ayres, the game's first star, said with a grin. "I got one."

Not long after the final buzzer, the Hurricanes were hawking T-shirts on Twitter sporting the stand-in goalie's No. 90.

"It's pretty special," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "I told the guys after the game, 'Thank him because that just gave (us) an incredible memory.'"

Warren Foegele scored twice, Martin Necas had a goal and an assist, and Lucas Wallmark, Nino Niederreiter and Teuvo Teravainen provided the rest of the offense for Carolina.

"He probably dreams of playing in the National Hockey League," Foegele said of Ayres. "What a moment for him. Something he'll never forget, and something we won't either."

Alexander Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall and John Tavares scored for Toronto, which beat the Hurricanes 8-6 at home on Dec. 23. Kasperi Kapanen and Tyson Barrie picked up two assists each for the Leafs. Frederik Andersen made 41 saves.

Toronto was playing poorly before Mrazek went down with Carolina leading. Things didn't get much better, even though Tavares and Engvall scored on consecutive attempts to make it 4-3 through 40 minutes.

"The reality is that the game really just stayed the same," said Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, whose players mustered just seven shots in the third. "When the goalie switch happened, I talked to the team and said, 'If we don't change how we're playing, they don't even need a goalie. There're no chances, no shots, there's nothing happening.'

"They didn't need a goaltender the way the game was going."

Reimer started for the Hurricanes against his former team but left with a lower-body injury in the first after being bowled over in his crease. He was replaced by Mrazek, who made 31 saves in Friday's 5-2 home loss to the New York Rangers. But Carolina's second option went down after that thunderous encounter with Clifford as both players raced for the puck along the sideboards with 8:41 left in the second.

That forced Ayres, who's been the emergency goalie in Toronto for about half the games this season and is available to either team, into action for the remainder of game between clubs battling for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.

"You kind of think, 'Oh well how's this gonna end up?'" Brind'Amour said. "That's incredible. That's why you do this."

After the bizarre second that saw Carolina score four times, give up two goals, lose Mrazek, and have Ayres pressed into action, the Hurricanes made it 5-3 just 53 seconds into the third after jumping on a turnover and beating Andersen in tight.

Necas then made it 6-3 at 3:44 when he picked up a loose puck to finish off a chaotic sequence as boos rained down.

The jeers continued on a Leafs power play later in the period and got louder as the period wore on, with some fans chanting "Let's Go Raptors!" as the final minutes ticked down.

"We obviously didn't handle the circumstances of the game very well," Leafs captain John Tavares said. "Might have been our poorest night of execution.

"We seemed like the team that played last night and traveled."

Carolina trailed 1-0 after the first, but tied it at 5:46 of the second when Wallmark scored off a scramble. Niederrieter then blasted a one-timer on a power play at 9:43 before Foegele made it 3-1 at 10:49.

Mrazek was out of the game 30 seconds later.

Teravainen made it 4-1 with Clifford in the box for charging at 13:17, but Tavares scored on the first shot against Ayres, through the pads 19 seconds after that.

Engvall buried a loose puck on Toronto's next shot at 15:10 to make it 4-3.

The Leafs, who were coming of an encouraging 4-0 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday, then got a power play — fans screamed "Shoot!" almost every time a Toronto player had the puck anywhere near the opposition net — but the Hurricanes didn't allow anything through.

Ayres made his first save late in the second on Auston Matthews as Carolina led 4-3 through a wild 40 minutes and shut things down in the third.

"These guys," Ayres said of what he'll remember most. "How great they were to me. The crowd in Toronto was unreal. Even though I was on the other team they were so receptive. Every time I made a save I could hear them cheering for me.

“Awesome.”

NOTES: Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie was hurt with six minutes gone when Andrei Svechnikov took him hard into the end boards. The defenseman skated to the locker room favoring his right shoulder, but was back on the bench to start the second.

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host Dallas Stars on Tuesday.

Maple Leafs: At Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 38569

Reported Deaths: 1511
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12456787
Ramsey4911228
Dakota238291
Stearns237119
Anoka2241109
Nobles16696
Olmsted112915
Washington111440
Mower9522
Rice8447
Scott7344
Clay58738
Kandiyohi5731
Blue Earth4792
Wright4755
Todd4012
Carver3811
Sherburne3175
Lyon3162
Freeborn2920
Watonwan2340
Steele2311
Benton2173
St. Louis18015
Martin1695
Nicollet16912
Cottonwood1360
Goodhue1318
Winona12515
Crow Wing10612
Pine1050
Le Sueur1031
Chisago1001
Otter Tail951
McLeod920
Carlton870
Dodge870
Polk822
Chippewa791
Unassigned7837
Isanti730
Waseca680
Douglas650
Itasca6412
Murray640
Meeker611
Morrison591
Becker560
Faribault560
Jackson550
Sibley542
Pipestone522
Pennington510
Renville352
Mille Lacs342
Wabasha330
Brown312
Rock310
Beltrami300
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston260
Swift221
Wilkin213
Norman200
Redwood180
Cass162
Roseau160
Aitkin150
Big Stone150
Koochiching151
Wadena150
Kanabec141
Grant120
Marshall120
Lincoln100
Pope100
Mahnomen91
Clearwater80
Hubbard70
Lake60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31670

Reported Deaths: 722
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6638179
Woodbury325244
Black Hawk230158
Buena Vista171411
Johnson13148
Linn129482
Dallas128029
Marshall104919
Scott81510
Story7793
Pottawattamie73612
Wapello70830
Dubuque70222
Crawford6772
Muscatine64344
Sioux4770
Tama46529
Wright3861
Louisa36213
Jasper32517
Plymouth3225
Warren2901
Dickinson2663
Washington2439
Webster2292
Hamilton1891
Cerro Gordo1821
Boone1481
Clay1340
Clarke1322
Allamakee1314
Mahaska11617
Shelby1140
Clinton1121
Poweshiek1068
Carroll991
Pocahontas971
Bremer946
Des Moines922
Franklin900
Emmet880
Henry863
Cedar841
Taylor790
Hardin770
Monona770
Cherokee751
Floyd732
Marion700
Benton691
Guthrie664
Jefferson640
Sac640
Osceola620
Jones610
Butler572
Buchanan551
Humboldt551
Hancock540
Harrison540
Lee542
Calhoun532
Iowa530
Delaware511
Fayette510
Monroe516
Madison482
Clayton443
Lyon440
Davis411
Palo Alto410
Mitchell390
Winneshiek390
Grundy380
Mills370
Kossuth350
Howard340
Jackson320
Lucas314
Greene300
Chickasaw290
Union290
Winnebago290
Ida240
Cass230
Van Buren220
Appanoose213
Keokuk211
Page210
Worth200
Unassigned170
Adair160
Audubon161
Ringgold160
Decatur120
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont70
Rochester
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Mason City
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 72°
Albert Lea
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 72°
Austin
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Charles City
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
Some relief in sight, after more storms
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events